Book Review: Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

August 17, 2020

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is the second book in the sc-fi/horror/fantasy series of The Locked Tomb Trilogy, following one of the Harrowhark Nonagesimus, a necromancer who has been ascended to immortality. Ms. Muir is an author from New Zealand, who has been nominated for several awards in the horror / fantasy / science-fiction genres.

  • 512 pages
  • Publisher:
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250313228

Book Review: Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
My rat­ing for Harrow the Ninth 4
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This is an insane book.
The whole storyline barely makes any sense the first half. It took me over a week to finish this book because I had to read it in small bits, sometimes rereading paragraphs thinking I missed something, sometimes putting it down because the words, when put together stopped making sense to me. I didn’t dare to skip a paragraph or a page because then I’d be completely lost.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir continues the story of… frankly I don’t know what. Unlike the first book in The Locked Tomb Trilogy, this one is told by Harrow after she became lyctor, an immortal and magical knight in the services of the Necrolord Prime, the Undying Emperor, who they see as God himself.

The problem with Harrow telling the story is that she’s an unreliable narrator. If you’ve seen the movie Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) you might have an idea what I’m talking about. It’s silly, insane, jumps around, and makes little sense especially if you read the first book. If you didn’t read Gideon the Ninth, I suggest you do, if you did – brush up on it before starting this one. The narration in this book is so unreliable that it doesn’t only alters what Harrow remembers, but attempts to alter what the reader remembers as well.

But Ms. Muir can certainly write. She does not underestimate her readers, but challenges them to figure out what’s going on. Even though this is the second in the series, this book is stylistically very different than the first. Missing is the snark from Gideon the Ninth, which was the highs and lows of the book, instead she throws an insane story told by an insane mind that the reader has to keep a tight leash on, or let go entirely – there is no in-between. The foul mouthed, brash narrator is replaced by a weird, dark, paranoid, and depressed narrator who, like the reader, is trying to figure out what’s going on.

Under all the crazy storytelling there is Harrow’s grief and loss, she feels it constantly but doesn’t know why, since she rewired her brain to forget Gideon. She still suffers though; she suffers from survivor’s guilt with all the coping mechanisms that it entails. The author uses many tools to convince Harrow, and us, that what never happened actually did. She screws up the timeline, she swaps characters, revises the plot of Gideon the Ninth, talks with ghosts, and splits the narration.
I think.

This book made me work, the narrative is fantastic, but challenging, it’s not an easy book to read and frankly, I think I missed about 20% of what happened in the book. I did enjoyed reading it very much though, it’s a middle book which is nothing like the first but it’s weird, delightful, odd and, if I didn’t mention, somewhat crazy.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus has finally ascended into being a Lyctor, an immortal fighting in a war for the Emperor. The cost though is terrible, she had to sacrifice the only living person she cared about, Gideon. Harrow becomes a sort of knight, superpowered and magical fighting in an endless, maybe unwinnable war in several dimensions.

As the FNG of the lyctors, Harrow is stuck in a Gothic spaceship with the Emperor who goes by “John”, and three teachers who are thousands of years old, with thousands of years of history, and… surprise… they don’t like their new student.

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Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I bought this book.
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